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Has anyone out there really achieved the 'work/life' balance?

(20 Posts)
tailormade Wed 24-Jun-09 18:58:57

I know this has probably been discussed before, but I would be really interested in the experiences/advice of others.
I have a son of school age and a partner. I trained for several years to do a job that I love, but it is full time and I often have to take work home. (which I quite often do when my son has gone to bed.) I guess I am quite career driven - its not a conscious choice, but I do love my job and have taken on extra responsibilites, because I love new challenges and learning new things.

My partner works shifts (which average full time hours every week) and we have an excellent child care system, so its not all bad.

Basically, I just feel that everything is a balancing act. I know there are people out there who probably have 4 kids and work 2 jobs and manage, but I feel that I'm struggling. I think the problem is that my job is very emotionally draining and I give alot to it - I'm the sort of person who thinks if a job is worth doing, its worth doing well. I obviously also give alot of time to my son, and it is my relationship with my partner that gets the 'least'. I know that its not a case of dividing life up into chunks, but thats how it feels, especially with all the housework and other stuff that needs doing.

I know that its not always possible to 'have it all'. I know the advantages of me working - personal fulfilment, no money worries, etc. I know I can't have 'everything'. I know too, that I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and, to be honest, like to have everything under control regarding the jobs I do at work and at home.

clam Wed 24-Jun-09 19:09:53

Is it a full-time job? Because if so, I really think you should consider a cleaner/ironer/gardener/whatever if it's at all possible financially.

Otherwise, you're attempting to do two full-time jobs, which is not reasonable. No wonder you're struggling to find time to fit everything in.

I feel that I have the ideal balance - but only because I'm part-time. I work 3 days a week as a teacher, my kids are a bit more independent at 12 and 10, and my DH is very hands-on around the house. He does all the shopping and cooking, for instance. So it works for us. But only just.

tailormade Wed 24-Jun-09 19:15:15

Hi clam

yes, it is full time. My partner does do quite a bit around the house, which is why I think I 'should' quite easily be able to cope!

mrsmerryweather Wed 24-Jun-09 20:25:09

Bet you're a teacher!

If money is not an issue why not get a cleaner?

I don't think there is any advice anyone can give you- either you carry on as you are, or you work part time.

Sorry to sound out the old cliche, but when you are 6 feet under, do you want your headstone to say "I wish I had spent more time at the office/school/hospital/whatever..." or "I wish I had given more time to my family"?

I think you need to focus on what is making you stressed- if the chores are under control, what exactly is it that's bugging you?

IMO our nearest and dearest deserve more of us than any job/clients/pupils etc etc- and no amount of money can compensate for that.

It's all about priorites- you seem to be questioning yours.

BonsoirAnna Wed 24-Jun-09 20:28:31

Agree with other posters - you need to outsource anything and everything that can be done by others without anyone in the family suffering. Cleaners/window cleaners/ironing services/gardeners etc all make life much easier!

mrsmerryweather Wed 24-Jun-09 20:34:59

I decided NOT to work full time- and haven't since my DCs were born, as my DH travelled a lot and I didn't want to outsource child care- or try to juggle an emotionally deanding job and look after my DCs- they are now very much older.

I earn less, we haven't got the house of our dreams, we can't afford exotic hols, although DH earns a good salary, but I do have time to keep fit, grow veggies and do my garden, see my friends and have a good work-life balance.

It's all about choice- what matters most to you?

tailormade Wed 24-Jun-09 21:33:46

Thanks for your replies.

I wouldn't want my gravestone to say "I wish I had spent more time at the office..!", but, in saying that, I do love my work. After having my son, I knew almost straightaway that I would not want any more children. I stayed at home with him until he started school and do not regret that for one moment. I guess however, that my career break did put me 'back' a bit, so the fact that I'm playing 'catch up' is always lurking. I also think I have a bit of issue with myself and how I view things. As I mentioned before, I am a bit of a perfectionist (control freak!) and I really wish I wasn't. I've alwasy been like it to some extent and can't get out of the cycle. For example, at uni, I got a first class degree - I was competing with anyone else, but when I realised it was possible, it was almost like I had to do it (iyswim). To some extent I carry this thinking into my job, but I'm finding it just isn't sustainable. I guess I have alot of thinking to do....

tailormade Wed 24-Jun-09 21:35:04

meant to say "I was NOT competing with anyone else" !

tigerdriver Wed 24-Jun-09 21:43:35

*Tailormade^ - I am in a similar situation to you. I have one DS, now 7, I work FT in a job which I don't dislike but I am by far the main breadwinner and it is very demanding...

I do outsource the cleaning, ironing and school run. DH does the gardening. Sounds like an easy ride?

I think the difficulty is that the older the DC are, the more you want to spend time with them. DS wants me to go to football practice, pick him up from school, etc etc. Unless I have oodles of notice from school about assemblies, plays, concerts, bring your mum to lunch days etc, I just can't do them.

So, no you can't have it all, you have to become wily at getting time out (I work from home as much as I can, I work as many hours but I cut out an hour or two travelling and don't have the constant disruptions of being in the office).

However, seriously thinking about a major career change now. Life is too short to sit in an aircon office and worry about the middle management.

mrsmerryweather Wed 24-Jun-09 22:00:32

It might be worth you thinking why you are a perfectionist or control freak- who or what are you controlling ( only yourself).

Are you trying to prove something to yourself or other people?

Does your self-worth come from doing a paid job or climbing the corporate ladder- or from who you are?

Often people who are perfectionists etc have very low self esteem and are constantly trying to live up to their own impossible standards, or prove something to other people who just don't care anyway!

tailormade Wed 24-Jun-09 22:14:43

you are right mrsmerryweather. I really should give some serious thought to WHO I am trying to please. My parents weren't pushy and my partner certainly isn't. There isn't any influence in my life whereby I am being pressured to reach a particular level in my career. You are also right regarding the esteem thing. Despite being well educated, having a fantastic family and actually, being reasonably happy about how I look(!), I do suffer from bouts of negativity and feeling particularly inadequate. I can feel some serious thinking coming on.......

thaliablogs Wed 24-Jun-09 23:30:14

I'm a bit worried that all these messages seem to be encouraging you to give up on your professional ambitions and mostly not supporting you in having a fulfilling life outside the home. I think there will always be things you miss/wish you could do, but overall you are bringing your son a richer set of experiences than if you stayed at home, not to mention being a great female role model, so there's a lot to be said for the balance you are trying to create.

Having said that, I do agree w outsourcing everything possible so that the time you do spend at home is time with your son and not cleaning etc.

mrsmerryweather Thu 25-Jun-09 08:04:16

""there will always be things you miss/wish you could do, but overall you are bringing your son a richer set of experiences than if you stayed at home, not to mention being a great female role model, so there's a lot to be said for the balance you are trying to create.""

Surely this is a personal opinion? It's not an objective comment. The OP is not necessarily bringing her son a "richer set of experiences" unless her experiences in the metaphorical baord room can be translated into child care.

Similarly, who is not to say that her son will wish in the future that Mum had been around more, rather than for her ability to juggle work and family?

From what the OP has said, i think this is more about out sourcing chores. TBH, if you have one child who is at school and you have a partner who helps a lot, and you out source cleaning etc then you should be able to cope. If, on the other hand, you feel guilty that you are missing out on things your son does, then you have to re-assess what matters most to you.

ssd Thu 25-Jun-09 08:21:03

I have, in answer to op

but my job prospects have taken a nose dive and we are worse off financially

but I don't want my kids in endless after school/holiday clubs so this is the sacrifice, worth it to me

reikizen Thu 25-Jun-09 08:31:49

Do you think men worry about this stuff? I don't even understand what 'having it all' means to be honest. You are just living your life in the best way you can at this moment. If you want to change it, do so, of you don't then stop fretting about it. My mum stayed at home to look after us and that made me feel resentful to her and vice versa. There is no perfect answer or solution, we are just doing our best. In answer to your question I have a good work life balance because it is the balance I want but it isn't easy (what worthwhile thing is?) as I work very hard but I don't want to do anything else and I don't feel I am missing out on the kids because when I do get free time I am wholly with them.

mrsmerryweather Thu 25-Jun-09 09:34:26

I do think men worry about it- but in a different way.

My DH did not take various promotions at work as it would have meant loads of overseas travel and when they DCs were young he didn't want that lifestyle- he travelled enough as it was.

We decided to follow the traditional family model of him working f/t and me pt/ simply because he has always earned more than I ever could in my profession.

I think it is ver rare when you look back to be 100% happy with your choices- not that I am older, I do sometimes regret putting my career on hold, as I have a lot more confidence now than I did in my 30s. But I have missed the boat in terms of climbing the career ladder.

I think a lot depends on the work you do- if you can take 10-15 yrs out an d work part time then pick it uplater, that might be a better compromise than working f/t when the kids are young.

Rhian82 Thu 25-Jun-09 09:43:14

I have balance, but because I'm part time. I work three days a week, and have two days with my (8-month-old) son, and then the weekend with him and my husband. I do extra freelance work in the evenings and weekends, but don't feel that this really impacts on us - a lot of the time it's stuff I can do while they're in the room, or watching TV.

I get a bit frustrated that my career is probably stalling while I'm part time, but I still really love my job and there are opportunities to do more. I feel like I get a good balance of looking after my baby, having a relationship with my husband and still getting to use my brain in a job I love.

It also probably helps that we do next to no housework, our flat is a tip

Bramshott Thu 25-Jun-09 09:53:50

I guess I have a pretty good balance - which has involved small sacrifices in all areas, but none which are too big.

I do freelance work from home, roughly 3 days a week, spread over school hours. I am lucky enough to work in a field with lots of freelance options, but needless to say my salary / visibility / career progression is not what it would be if I was in a 'job'. However, it's interesting work, and I can organise my hours to suit me.

DD1 is at school and although I can usually be there for home-time, assemblies etc, it's not always possible. DD2 is with a childminder which works out brilliantly, and 2 days at home with me. I personally feel (and I know not everyone feels this way) that it's important for them to know that by and large, most adults work, and although there are lots of examples at school where one parent is at home full time once the kids are in school, I know it wouldn't work for me.

It's always a balancing act. I agree with others, you need to work out what your specific issues are, and address them, rather than worrying about the whole "am I doing the right thing by working" thing! So if you are struggling to find time for the housework, get a cleaner (assuming you can afford it); if you are struggling to find time for your partner, try to set aside one evening a week (ideally by booking a regular babysitter) which will be 'couple' time.

lilacclaire Thu 25-Jun-09 10:05:30

Hi, I was in a similar situation after I had my ds, had a job I loved that was very demanding, work home etc.
I had a choice to make, because personally I don't think you can have it all (just my opinion) and I gave up my (very promising)career and finally went to college to completely retrain.
I now work 16hrs a week in a lovely but undemanding job, i've made the house/kids my 'real' job and focus on that now.
Completely different way of life, but I love it all the same.

happydaisy Fri 26-Jun-09 16:41:18

You have to just do the best you can. I work full time and know that I've missed out on my kids growing up but my dh wouldn't work so I've had no choice. I've enjoyed climbing the career ladder (if I had to work then I was going to make it pay!) and I know that my dd sees me as a positive role model but she does wish that i was around more. I completely agree that it is whatever works for you and if it doesn't work, you need to re-evaluate and let something go...

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